08.14.20

Rounds Weekly Column: Letter to Students, Parents and Teachers

Dear Students, Parents and Teachers:

The longest summer break you will ever experience is almost over. Life has been different for all of us since COVID-19 hit our communities in March. Kids moved from learning in classrooms to learning online from home. Winter sports abruptly came to an end and spring sports seasons were canceled entirely. Graduation ceremonies looked a little different. But we are all weathering the storm together.

In South Dakota, we’ve used common sense to fight this virus. We are fortunate to live in a large, rural state where we’re naturally more spread out and “socially distant” than those living in many other states. We’ve kept our distance, used hand sanitizer and worn masks when it made sense. With students, teachers and parents eager to have kids back in the classroom, now is not the time to let up. Now is the time to double down.

I was chatting with a friend this week who lives out in Rapid City. He and his wife sat down and made the difficult decision to isolate from their grandchildren, for their health, when they head back to school in a couple weeks. Tough decisions like this weigh heavy on grandkids and on my friend, the grandpa.

It’s important that we all take COVID-19 seriously. There’s an incorrect idea out there that this virus is just like the flu we battle every year - it’s not. Until we get a vaccine, we’ve got to be careful. If we’re not cautious, this virus can do a lot of damage in a short period of time.

Where I live in Ft. Pierre, we have rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes are dangerous and found all across West River. One bite from even the smallest of rattlers can be a real problem. But that doesn’t stop our farmers and ranchers in Western South Dakota. Every day, they work hard to raise their crops and cattle while avoiding encountering a life threatening situation. In South Dakota fear doesn’t keep us confined. But rather, common sense keeps us safe. 

As we prepare to head back to school this fall, we should all learn a lesson from our farmers and ranchers as we deal with the rattlesnake that is COVID-19. The days and weeks ahead are critical. We must remain resilient and continue using South Dakota common sense if we want to cheer on our local teams this fall or watch our graduates walk across the stage in the spring.

Education is all about learning and this pandemic has taught us a lot about ourselves. We come from tough stock. We’re resilient people.

It’s time to get back to school.  But, we need to do it safely. 

Mike Rounds